Farmers ' innovative capacity and their accumulated knowledge has provided the foundations for thousands of years of agricultural development. After being ignored for decades, it is now seen as the key to sustainable agriculture. But urgent measures are needed to ensure that indigenous knowledge is fully utilized for the benefit of Third World farmers themselves and not merely exploited for the short term profit in the North. Farmers ' knowledge must be protected, research institutions need to redirect their priorities to work with farmers, and funds should be made available to support local development initiatives.

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BIOTECHNOLOGY IN THE SOVIET UNION

Vincent Lucassen | 15 October 1990 | Seedling - October 1990

With the breaking down of the Iron Curtain and widespread talk of "perestroika" and "glasnost", the political system in the Soviet Union is presently undergoing profound transformations. A search for the cause of fatal mistakes during the production of biotechnologically produced artificial proteins show some indications of what can happen if decisions on science and technology are left to a central bureaucratic apparatus only. However, the new winds blowing in the USSR do not only bring a more open discussion on these matters, but also revive interest of Western biotech companies to tap part of a huge unexploited market. The development of biotechnology in the flux of "perestroika" has its own dynamics. Vincent Lucassen of the Dutch Contact Group on Biotechnology and Society, and member of the GRAIN Board, went to the Soviet Union and reports on his findings.

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The Brussels-based European Commission has ended a long journey in putting together a proposed Community Plant Variety Rights (CPVR) law. The initiative is meant to be a response to EC breeders ' long-standing complaints about loopholes in the current Plant Breeders ' Rights (PBR) system. According to the Commission, the new proposal will harmonise the PBR system, so that breeders can get their protection EEC-wide rather then having to apply for it in each single country. However, as with many of the recent EEC proposals, when the Commission talks about "harmonisation", it really means "strengthening". If adopted, this proposed law would dramatically expand the property rights of plant breeders to the extent that the only difference between a plant patent and a plant breeders right might be in the name.

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Hail 53(b)!

GRAIN | 20 July 1990 | Seedling - July 1990

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